COVID-19: Govt’s plan to procure vaccine is insufficient to protect country’s 220 million population – Pakistan

(Karachi) In wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government has planned to procure 1.1 million vaccine doses from a Chinese company which is insufficient to protect the country’s 220 million population, an article published in Dawn revealed on Monday.

As per the report, the vaccine will be administered to health workers and vulnerable population in the first phase and will require two doses to protect against coronavirus for a period yet unknown to the world.

The report highlighted that there is a global struggle among countries to acquire COVID vaccine to immunise their population against the disease but Pakistan is still waiting for the United Nation’s Covax mechanism to receive around 45 million free vaccine doses that will cover country’s 20 percent population.

Many states including Turkey, Columbia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India have already struck deals with different COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing firms like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Astra Zeneca to procure millions of doses while some countries have started research to develop vaccine at home, it mentioned.

The document points out that the Pakistan government has apparently exonerated itself of this vital responsibility and allowed the private sector players to procure vaccine from anywhere in the world and get registered with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and sell to those who can afford.

Commenting on the matter, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said the government has decided to procure vaccine in a graduated fashion as the global supply lines and efficacy of respective vaccines was not yet clear.

He said, “The country is just completing the clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine developed by Canada-based Chinese company Cansino Bio.” The SAPM maintained that after getting sound efficacy results, the government would order procuring substantial amount of vaccine.

Sultan pointed out the government had allocated $150 million which could be doubled and even more, when there would be clarity about vaccine efficacy and availability.

“The Sinopharm vaccine would start reaching the country by the end of this month or early next month. The vaccines will be procured until the entire eligible population is vaccinated,” he said. He hoped that the vaccine under the Covax management system would also be reaching here by the end of this month or early next month.

To a question about allowing the private sector to procure vaccine, the Faisal Sultan said the government had neither asked the private sector nor stopped it from doing so. “We have no dependency on the private sector as only three to four per cent population may go to the private sector,” he said.

About the price, he said, the Pakistan government had committed with the Chinese company that vaccine price would not be disclosed because China is offering it to Pakistan at much lower rate.

Similarly, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry on National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid said the federal government expects more avenues will open with regard to availability of vaccine and a bit of information about vaccines’ efficacy by the end of March.

“One must keep in mind that it takes six to eight years to develop a reliable vaccine and currently available vaccines have been developed in just six to eight months. The efficacy of any vaccine produced worldwide needs to be monitored for at least a year to say anything with conviction,” she said.

Dr Hamid said the federal government has also engaged a couple of other international companies to procure more vaccine.

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